BARCELONA | TATA MARTINO
Martino: "I know Leo and Jorge convinced Barça to hire me"
The Argentine is certain that Messi and his father influenced the Barcelona board of directors' decision to hire him as coach.
The new Barcelona coach Tata Martino gave his final press conference in Rosario on Tuesday to declare farewell to Newells' Old Boys, before heading to the Catalan capital to take up his new job.
The Argentine believes Leo Messi and his father Jorge, both fans of Newells', had a say in Barça hiring him, and said Argentine fans should be grateful for their gesture.
He declared: "I don't know the ins and outs of it but Jorge and Lionel had sway and they spoke with the club's directors [about who should succeed Tito Vilanova] and were asked their opinion. I don't know much about what went on but I have to thank them. All Argentines should thank them."
The coach admitted that the opportunity to coach Messi played an important role in him accepting the job.
"As well as the responsibility of being the coach of Barcelona, it's obviously a huge responsibility to coach the best player in the world. We will try and find the right formula so that we can help him continue to be the extraordinary player he already is."
And he pledged to honour Barcelona's attacking philosophy: "I understand the history of the institution I am going to, and I will have to immerse myself in that institution."
Martino turned down offers from Real Sociedad and Málaga earlier in the summer in order to focus on the end of the season with Newell's, who ended up winning the Argentine Primera Division and reaching the semi finals of the Copa Libertadores.
He insisted the call from Barcelona took him by surprise.
“Sometimes you cannot explain why things happen,” he said.
"Everything that was going on at Newell’s meant I couldn’t consider anything else and then suddenly this situation came up.
“I can’t tell you how proud I was when I got the call about the possibility of working at Barcelona. I was looking forward to a rest and waiting to see what job offers came in and I definitely didn’t expect this.
"Having the opportunity to be the coach of Barcelona, to be in charge of such a great squad and to coach Messi on top of all that is something any coach in the world would want. My biggest concern is being able to contribute something positive to the institution.
"It’s a big challenge to join a club of this magnitude and to try and do a good job. As with every big club, I want our team to be serious candidates to win every competition.”
Another challenge for the new coach will be getting Messi to click with new signing Neymar.
He said: "They will have to adapt to playing alongside each other, they'll need to get to know each other first and get used to playing together day by day. I hope to be able to accommodate them both."
Martino took Paraguay to the World Cup quarter finals in 2010 and has been touted as a possible candidate for the Argentina job one day. However, he insisted he had not included any clause in his two-year contract with Barcelona to facilitate him coaching his country, declaring: “I never put clauses in my contracts.”